Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Labor worker Clarence Ballany prepares mud for the brick layers during construction of the new Sugar Hill City Hall on June 27, which is estimated to be completed in December. The city of Sugar Hill is in the process of building a new city hall building, an amphitheater, a detention pond and road construction. Residents of Sugar Hill are not being taxed to fund the project because the city has been saving for the past 9 years.
SUGAR HILL -- Chomping a cigar and sporting a yellow hard hat, City Manager Bob Hail walks the perimeter of a construction site on a sweltering afternoon, the rising dust of Georgia red clay filling his lungs.
The man beams as he watches builders assemble his city's future nail by nail, brick by brick. The construction in downtown Sugar Hill -- which consists of roadwork, a roundabout, an amphitheater and a 30,000-square-foot city hall -- is coming together, Hail said.
The project, slated for completion in December, is a $15.5 million combination of earmarked city savings and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds -- with 55 percent funded by SPLOST and 45 percent city-funded, Hail said.
The largest of the downtown projects, a city hall building that is double the size of the current one, will cost about $11.5 million.
"We're at full capacity," Hail said. "We've grown more than 8,000 people since I've been here (about 10 years). We can't expand city hall anymore, so we've been saving money for several years now so that we could use it to build an even bigger city hall than what the SPLOST funds would have allowed."
He envisions city hall and the rest of the renovations and construction downtown as an extension of "the community life."
"It's what we're all about," Hail said. "Do we want to be the industrial leaders of the South? No. We're a city of families. Quality of life and family -- that's what we do."
That lifestyle, he said, will include restaurants and clothing stores downtown, just a short walk for residents. In an effort to lure such businesses to Sugar Hill, Hail said "we're making it about as easy as it can be."
There are about 30 parcels, which can hook on to the city's storm drain system, so that businesses that build within municipal boundaries won't have to build their own detention ponds.
"All the utilities also are underground, ready to go, so developers can come here and build their building," Hail said. "They attach, and they're all set."
Added Hail: "It's a build-it-and-they-will-come incentive."
The city manager added that the road projects, which include a roundabout, aim to make the city "more than a cut-through ... we are slowing down the traffic, because if you're coming to Sugar Hill, we want it to be on purpose, not as a cut-through to somewhere else. We are aiming for a pedestrian-friendly destination."
Mayor Gary Pirkle said he's pleased with the direction the city's headed.
"It will be nice having a downtown area that we didn't have before," Pirkle said. "In addition, it will bring in businesses and make it more of an inviting place to live. Our town will have a nice centerpiece."
Dawn Gober, the Downtown Development Authority director, said she's hoping that the added attractiveness to her native city "will bring some restaurants and items of interest to our citizens. We're all very excited to see where this takes us."
Hail agreed. "You're looking at the future," he said, arms crossed, beaming as he watched the downtown progress.